HC Deb 23 October 2000 vol 355 cc80-1W
Mr. Austin

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps he is taking to improve recruitment and retention of biomedical scientists; and if he will make a statement. [134001]

Ms Drown

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps are being taken to improve the morale of(a) biomedical scientists and (b) other staff who work in the NHS pathology services. [134006]

Mr. Denham

The national recruitment, retention and vacancy survey published September 2000 gave us the latest authoritative data on staff vacancies from 100 per cent. of National Health Service trusts. It shows that 2.6 per cent. of other scientific, technical and therapeutic posts have been vacant for 3 months or more (in England). We are ensuring that effective recruitment and retention policies are in place to make the best use of trained staff, including biomedical scientists and other pathology staff, and that training levels are sufficient to get a better match between supply and demand.

In October, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State published the performance management framework for human resources for the whole of the NHS. The way employers treat their staff will in future be part of the core performance measures and linked to the financial resources they receive. Included in the framework is the improving working lives standard which summarises the commitment expected from employers to create well-managed, flexible working environments that support staff, promote their welfare and development, tackle violence and racism, and respect their need to manage a health and productive work/life balance.

In July 2000, a new careers recruitment leaflet was produced for scientists and technicians and the NHS careers information service was extended to include scientists and technicians (0845 6060655 or www.nhs.uk/careers)

For 1999–2000, to help improve recruitment and retention, newly qualified biomedical scientists received pay increases of 7.1 per cent; trainee biomedical scientists up to 26 per cent; newly qualified cytology screeners up to 11.4 per cent; and trainee cytology screeners up to 6.6 per cent. For 2000–01, all NHS pathology staff received increases of 3.25 per cent. or £300, whichever is the higher, and a formula for 2001£02 is agreed.

As for the future on pay, the NHS pay system is in need of modernisation. We are working in partnership with trades unions to negotiate a new pay system which will offer NHS staff a more attractive career structure and which will enhance recruitment and retention.

Mr. Austin

To ask the Secretary of State for Health when medical laboratory scientific officers will be brought within the scope of the Pay Review Body. [134000]

Mr. Denham

Our proposals for modernising National Health Service pay which were published in February 1999 in "Agenda for Change", include bringing some groups of highly qualified staff within the scope of the Nursing Pay Review Body, without changing its fundamentally professional character.

Initial discussions with NHS trade unions on pay modernisation resulted in the "Joint Framework of Principles and Agreed Statement on the Way Forward", which was published on 8 October 1999. This sets out the following starting point for more detailed discussions with trade unions on the qualifying criteria for groups to come within the scope of the NPRB: Professions with a minimum entry requirement of three years educational study (or equivalent) to diploma level or higher, in a health specific area (other than medicine or dentistry) and which are state registered and have a substantial majority of members employed in health care. Exceptions might be agreed for staff groups which met the majority but not all of these conditions. Staff groups which support professions added to the NPRB remit, and who have a direct connection with the transferred groups similar to that between nursing auxiliaries and registered nurses would also need to be considered for transfer.

The widening of the membership of the review body is conditional upon an agreement being reached in the current talks about pay modernisation.